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Low Back Pain? Here's Help.

Updated on June 15, 2014

As a massage therapist, I constantly see people that are suffering with low back pain and related problems. Massage is very beneficial for these problems. If you have had an injury and have either disk problems, or they have been fused due to an injury, massage can help to relieve and release that pain. However, my focus today is on common backache sufferers.

Radiating Back Pain

What I see most often are people of all shapes and sizes that are suffering from low back pain. This pain will originate in one of four places. First of all the back has many muscles that assist with support and keeping the body erect. A primary pain center in that bunch causes pain to radiate around the sides and sometimes to the front of the body. There are two causes or areas that can result in that sort of radiating pain. The body has an anterior side and a posterior side. The anterior is the front, and the posterior is the back.

Too Much Sitting

Sometimes, if the body is subject to a lot of sitting, such as in office work, or as in elderly people, the anterior side will get over-contracted in and around the pelvic/hip area in a muscle called the psoas. This muscle extends from the lower vertebrae down through the pelvic knotch and connects on the femur. When one sits more than they stand, this muscle is constantly contracted, which then pulls on the lower back.

One way to avoid this sort of back pain if you sit a lot is to stretch this area. You can lie down on your bed, and scoot your derriere to the edge of the bed, placing the one cheek closest to the edge at an almost half off the edge position. Make sure you have a pillow under your knees to support the low back. Slide the leg on the edge of the bed off the side and let it dangle there. Gravity will pull it down and cause that muscle area to stretch. You may immediately feel the difference in your lower back. If you have a partner that can help, have them press lightly down on the quad muscles just above the knee. This will enhance the stretch, and help your back more.

QL pain area
QL pain area

Stretch Exercises

Psoas stretch
Psoas stretch
Psoas stretch
Psoas stretch
QL stretch
QL stretch
QL stretch
QL stretch

The QL

The second muscle that can cause a radiating pain around the sides of the low back is called the quadrates lumborum or QL muscle. It is known as the “hip hiker,” and is largely responsible for imbalances in the hip, and sometimes for one leg being shorter than the other. This muscle runs diagonally across the low back. It originates on the vertebrae where the low back officially starts, which is right about where your rib cage ends. It crosses the back diagonally towards the outside or lateral side, connecting at the insertion point on the iliac part of the pelvic bone.

When this muscle is affected, it can be very painful. Typically, women who carry their youngsters on their hip, suffer from this particular muscular pain. People with one leg shorter end up suffering on both sides with this muscle because the shorter side is over- contracted, so it is causing pain because of that. The longer side is suffering because it has to work twice as hard to compensate for the shorter side. Ice may help temporarily alleviate this pain, but it will not eradicate the problem. This issue will require a knowledgeable, therapeutic massage therapist to alleviate and correct the stress caused by this muscle. You want a therapeutic massage therapist, because there is a difference between a more therapeutic therapist, and a spa therapist. You want someone who can alleviate the problem without excessive pressure beyond what you are capable of handling.

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As you can see, the body is full of trigger points. There are several in the area of the glutes that affect low back pain.
As you can see, the body is full of trigger points. There are several in the area of the glutes that affect low back pain.

The Glutes

Another underappreciated, and seldom considered muscle area that affects the low back are the glutes. I frequently treat the glutes to release low back pain. There are several trigger points in the glutes that can knot up or contract and cause severe low back pain. Sometimes the triggers are closer to the side of the body in and around the hip and the TFL which is the Tensor Fascia Latae, a tough band of ligament that runs down the side of the leg and assists in stabilization.

Some of the triggers are directly in and around the sacrum, and travel down in the middle of that area. A main trigger is directly to the right and left of the sacrum, but lower into the glutes. That trigger point radiates straight into the low back. The one trigger that 98% of low back sufferers complain about is in the area of the Piriformis. It is located in the hip joint, and sits right next to the sciatic nerve in the joint. Oftentimes, when people think they have a problem in their hip or sciatic pain, it is often the Piriformis. It is only sciatic pain if the pain shoots down the leg. Otherwise, it is the Piriformis. Again, this is a problem that a skilled therapeutic massage therapist can alleviate.

The Last Area People Think Is Related

The last area that causes low back pain outside of an injury, are the feet. Most people choose their shoes for fashion’s sake, or general ease to put on and comfort. However, few people pay much attention to their feet. However, your feet are the pillar of your body, and the main base of support. If you don’t maintain them, your entire balance and alignment can be thrown out, causing structural misalignment, posture problems and a lot of pain.

Painful Feet

Most often, when I see people with back problems, usually, all I have to do is check their feet and alignment, and that will show me what the problem is. Many people have fallen arches, and their ankles pronate. Some people’s feet suppinate and most of their pressure runs along the outside of the foot. Their shoe heels wear out on the outside rear edge. All of these things are signs of misalignment and imbalance in the feet.

If this is a problem you are having, the misalignment or imbalance can cause not only low back pain, but also a problem in the knees, and sometimes lateral calf pain. It behooves you to take proper care of your feet, ensuring that you wear good supportive shoes that are wide enough. Additionally, bunions are the result of improper shoes and imbalances in the foot. Surgery is not always necessary to correct this. A therapeutic massage therapist that knows Reflexology can break down a bunion through treatment. Additionally, there are foot care items that will help alleviate a bunion problem. Bunions not only cause foot discomfort, but additionally, they affect the shoulder, and cause a lot of tension and pain in that area. For more info on proper foot care, see this article.


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    • Etherealenigma profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandra M. Urquhart 

      6 years ago from Florida

      No problem. Glad to be of service. I see this sort of thing daily on the job, and if people only knew what was really making them hurt, I'm hopeful that they will adjust their lifestyles to eliminate the problem and the pain. Peace and blessings.

    • Lady_E profile image


      6 years ago from London, UK

      An eye opener. Thanks for all the info, photos and video.

    • Etherealenigma profile imageAUTHOR

      Sandra M. Urquhart 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Hi TToombs. One of the things I love about my career choice is that I get to learn a lot on how to help people combat their physical pain; and then, I can share that info. That's one of the best blessings of having this skill. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 

      6 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Great information and well presented. My lower back reminds me when I need to take a break from writing in a big way! :) Thanks for sharing your information on lower back pain! :)


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